Earthquakes Shake Up Reality In Oklahoma

The earth is still shaking beneath us here on a regular basis in Oklahoma. We just don’t make a big deal of it anymore. It has become a new normal created by the oil and gas industry here.

It’s true the overall number of earthquakes has dropped from last year. The Energy In Depth site reported back in May that the number of earthquakes has dropped 52 percent from January to April of this year over last year, but let’s make no mistake about it. The earthquakes keep coming.

Energy In Depth reported in its analysis of Oklahoma Geological Survey data that there were still 172 earthquakes in January registering at a 2.8-magnitude or higher. That dropped to 82 in April. That’s a sizable drop, but it’s still 82 earthquakes, and that doesn’t even count the smaller temblors. I’m also unsure if the drop isn’t really tied to a lower rig count and production because of the worldwide oil glut. That’s a reasonable question that needs an answer.

Last weekend alone, there were reports of a 3.1-magnitude and a 3.7-magnitude earthquake in the state. I’ve felt several small quakes in the last week in central Oklahoma. There’s so many I still lose track. I felt one larger earthquake last week, or maybe ten days ago or so, that I found out “only” registered at a 2.6-magnitude. I anticipate and feel dread over every little shake or noise in my house and at my work. Sometimes, it’s just the air conditioning starting up or it becomes clear it’s a plane in the sky; sometimes, it’s ambiguous whether it was an earthquake or not. Sometimes, it’s obvious. That’s life here now.

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End The Death Penalty

I became an at-large board member for the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish The Death Penalty (OK-CADP) last night at its annual meeting to try to help end capital punishment not only in Oklahoma but also wherever it exists as a legally sanctioned punishment.

I’ve been opposed to the death penalty my entire conscious life. Yet one current issue that certainly motivated me even more to join OK-CADP was Oklahoma’s recent botched application of the death penalty and one very close call, which, taken together, became a barbaric debacle, a debacle so intense that it could ironically serve down the road as a major or part of a legal reasoning for the U.S. Supreme Court to end capital punishment by judicial decree.

I’m referring to the recent botched lethal-injection executions of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner and the last-minute stays of execution for Richard Glossip. One stay for Glossip came just moments before the state was going to kill him because they didn’t have the appropriate drugs to carry it out.

All of this made national news, of course, and embarrassed the state. It was all outlined in a scathing grand jury report. One media outlet called it an extended tragedy of errors” and another media outlet referred to in a headline as “ . . .Oklahoma’s Despicable Execution Program.” That’s an understatement.

I will write more on Oklahoma’s despicable actions later in this post, but, first, I want everyone to think about the Tower of London, a castle that was used as a prison from 1100 to 1952. It was there, of course, where Anne Boleyn and others were beheaded for crimes they did or didn’t commit and where people were regularly tortured. I went there just last week while attending an academic conference in London, and there is a spot in the main grounds marking the place where the beheadings took place.

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Religious Extremism: The Depressing Ministry of Oklahoma Politics

Image of James Lankford and Paul Ryan

I make it a matter of my political-writing routine to regularly check out the web sites of Oklahoma’s right-wing congressional delegation, sites reflecting deeply unsettling extremist views that, let’s face it, pander to an overwhelming majority of Oklahoma voters.

It’s depressing. Don’t tell me it isn’t. U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, for example, are religious extremists, who consistently try to undermine the clear distinction of the separation between church and state outlined in the U.S. Constitution, and this is reflected on their government-sponsored sites on a regular basis.

I want to dissect one of Lankford’s latest religious screeds on his site later in this post. But, first, let’s review the First Amendment. Here it is:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

My concern here is with the language concerning religion. Note this is the “First Amendment” so we know our slave-owning “founding fathers”—great moralists, right?— thought the matter of religious plurality an important issue. But I believe in the fluidity of the Constitution in the sense that it was intentionally written for future generations to interpret. Our “founding fathers” (yes, I hate that term so I’m giving it ironic quote marks throughout this post) were exactly right on that issue.

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